TELL ME A STORY
Your mission in the final project
A work of fiction
A work of nonfiction
A work of reportage (e.g., an interview)
A work of criticism
Something that in some way touches on the “Latinx”
Something based on “truth”*
*the best made-up stories are based on some human truth
THINK OF IT LIKE A FILM
A ‘movie’ that you put on paper, tell in words. In prose.
KEY ELEMENTS OF LITERARY WRITING
Make it feel real.
Character is everything. People like to read about other
Fill the story with sensuous details (sights, sounds)
MORE KEY ELEMENTS
Specificity sells a story. And especially unique details.
What does your protagonist want? What forces oppose her/
You set the mood of the story.
Remember it’s the details that
makes a story
But not every
detail. Just the
‘telling’ detail, or
the detail that
SOME KEY THINGS TO REMEMBER
Surprise the reader.
Tell me something I don’t know.
Maybe a person, a place, a situation you know very well.
Better than anyone else on earth maybe.
It can be personal. Something you know intimately, but…
you have to be honest… We’re searching for revelation.
First draft, 600 words (or a little less)
Final draft 900 words due on finals week
READ TO BE INSPIRED
THIS IS AN EXERCISE IN
WE’RE NOT JUST TALKING
ABOUT WORDS YOU FIND IN
THE OXFORD DICTIONARY
REMEMBER THAT YOU HAVE ACCESS TO MANY LANGUAGES
English, as spoken among your peers.
English as used by writers you admire.
Spanish, or any other foreign language you know.
The unique language used by people in your high school,
neighborhood, community, barrio, dorm room.
Slang, nicknames, songs, insults, family legends, community
folklore, etc. etc. are all fair game.
USE THE POWER OF LITERARY DEVICES
And other forms of figurative language, including…
Similes. Onomatopoeia. Personification. Irony.
Neologisms. (Yes, I’m giving you permission to create your
AND EVEN MORE LITERARY DEVICES
Make use of your attitude, anger, compassion, hurt, and/or
your sense of humor
And you can do all of the above even if writing nonfiction
You can only imagine what it’s like to be a small Asian
girl at an El Super trying to find these candies. The
overwhelming sea of puzzled Latinos getting their pan
dulce or masa flour wonder if this “chinita” walked
into the wrong store…As my mom paid for our
groceries, their eyes ceased to wonder as I took a bite
of my Paleta Payaso, almost as if that bite reaffirmed
the validity of my presence. While I struggled to
understand my place in my community, my fellow
Latinx friends continued to share their snacks with me
in exchange for my Asian snacks. One Lucas Muecas
was worth four Hi-chews, no less, no more. A box of
Pocky was common, but the strawberry flavor was
prized. It would cost you a handful of Chili Rokas, a
share of hot cheetos, and a De La Rosa Marzipan.
While Asian culture was still a mystery, a minority
within the minority, my friends still tried to
understand my culture as I did the same.
Did you ever have an emo phase? You know,
that time when you were a kid and you
wanted to rock skinny jeans and studded
belts? Myself, I have a more vivid memory of
this wonderful phase of teenage adolescence
than I’d like to.
Here’s the thing. I’m undocumented. As if
that wasn’t bad enough, I come from a family
that is made up of literal Mariachis. What
was a kid like me listening to suburban white
boy music for? Here’s the thing. The
wonderful age of 12 is all about finding your
place in the grand scheme of the middle school
experience; one that is not particularly
forgiving. But this isn’t a story about how
tight I wanted my damn pants to be, but
rather the reason I even chose to dress that
way in the first place.
In a middle school with so many Mexican students, why would an undocumented
Mexican boy want to act white? How does the road for self-discovery end…there?
For starters, I didn’t really understand what being undocumented meant. What
does it mean to be undocumented when you haven’t even been formally introduced
to the concept of immigration law because you’re like, 12 years old? All you know
is, it’s not normal. You hear your parents watching television news in the kitchen,
but you don’t really know why they look at each other and sigh. Then of course
there’s the fact that well you’re still Mexican so there’s a lot of things your family is
very particular about. In my case, my folks are from Jalisco, Mexico. The state of
Jalisco is basically considered to be the birthplace of Mariachi music and its
supposed to be this huge honor to have even been conceived there
Sometimes I have the craziest dreams. I once dreamt of waiting at a bus stop
with George Harrison and a group of multicultural students as well, we were
all waiting to go to this type of futuristic private school, that I assumed all of
us were attending because all of us were wearing a burgundy type of school
Tomorrow, I’ll have to wake up early to accompany my mother for her physical
therapy. I really don’t want to go, but I would rather feel boredom than guilt.
My mother is in her late forties. Her body is broken, from the hard labor of cleaning
rooms at a rich hotel. From what she tells me, some rich folks are real dirty. I would
feel dirty writing what they do. So, I’ll spare the details…My mother told me that
one year during summer, she was cleaning a room and she looked out the window,
and she saw a family alongside the pool; the kids laughing and playing. She told me
she wanted to cry, because she couldn’t give that to me and my sisters. She said she
thought about us, staying all alone and bored at home. She doesn’t have the time or
money to give us a vacation of laughing alongside the pool, enjoying the heat and
the sky. Instead my mom sweating, stressing, bearing her silenced pain and
resentment she felt everyday going to work. When she shared these thoughts with
me, I felt that no heartbreak I ever encountered could compare to the pain of
hearing my mother’s suffering. That’s one thing about my mother, most of the time
she keeps her pain to herself, and I guess I take on that too.
REMEMBER THAT THIS IS NOT EXPOSITORY WRITING
Above all, we’re looking for emotional truth
Mystery is good
Forget the need to have everything fit together nicely at the
Ambiguity is good in creative writing.
Your characters don’t have to be obviously ‘bad’ or ‘good’
Yes, it’s okay to write a family story—but (like I said before)
you have to be able to be totally honest about it. To tell the
story from a certain distance.
I looked around at everything bathed in purple and pink dance lights and saw my
childhood friend, grown up now in a dazzling gown of gold, her favorite color, and
a gorgeous silver tiara that adorned her head. This was my first quinceañera, and I
was amazed by the grandness of it all. I had to explain to my Chinese mother why
this birthday party was so important, because she couldn’t understand why
someone would spend so much time and money and effort for a fifteenth birthday.
It’s like a wedding, I thought…
The bell roared through the speakers, calling all students into their first
class of the day. About to turn around the corner, I hear this boy shout
“maricón” to Rafael, the only person in the entire school who was out.
Amá picked me up from school later that afternoon. “¿cómo te fue en tus
clases?” I simply said “bién” and nothing more. Both my parents have
always expressed their opinions on the LGBT community–Apá especially.
I, myself, had been angrily confronted with the question “¿Eres joto?” by
Apá on various occasions. When would I tell them? How would I tell them?
Then I proceeded to think, why are mis padres so against the gays, enough
to compare that “sin” to murder and other serious crimes. Apá was an
alcoholic, cheated on Amá, birthed another child with another woman, had
many tattoos done, ate too much. All these sins he has and continues to
commit, but of course, he’s still going to el cielo while the LGBT
community will burn in eternal hell for simply loving another human
THE MISSION IS TO WRITE
But accomplishing this takes…
The reader can tell how much eﬀort you put into it
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